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The Get Down (Part II): Restoring Faith in Musical Television



Delving into part two of The Get Down on Netflix was met with a bit of trepidation, I must admit, but the reasoning is all because of my trust issues and bitter break-ups with music related shows on television.

You see, as a self-professed music lover, I had been down this road many times before. A much talked about TV drama surrounding the music industry and adjacent culture has, once again, come to grace our screens despite how many preceding shows have attempted and failed this very pursuit. Maybe I still haven’t gotten over the cancellations of shows like Vinyl and Roadies, stealing my heart with one season only to be cut short with the resounding blow of a network executive’s gavel.

Creators Baz Luhrmann and Stephen Guirgis deserve much credit for having made this show an on-demand exclusive two-part series to begin with. It must have been a wise and calculated decision in order to take viewers on a fast and wild ride without leaving its fate in the hands of a forced finale, or worse yet, a dreaded abrupt cancellation.

Knowing what I was getting myself into definitely made this show much more enjoyable; this was just a fling, a binge-watch romance that would end as quickly as it started, leaving me satisfied with fondness and good memories. Perhaps this creative duo has cracked the code to creating quality musical television that makes an impact without abandoning loyal viewers with nothing but plot holes and eternal emptiness (I swear, I’m not bitter). This is undeniably something future writers should take note of, not that I wouldn’t love a 10 season, decade-spanning show about rock n roll, but I digress…

Part two of The Get Down picks up right where it left off without skipping a beat, all to the familiar and enchanting voice of Nas, the narrator and impeccably smooth lyrical poet. One of the aspects that I really appreciate about the production is their ability to remain period appropriate with 70s hip-hop and disco fashion, décor and ultra funky vehicle interiors. Even the lighting in certain shots really gave the feeling of being present in an era without LED bulbs and 21st century minimalism. The well planned set placed you in the heart of the Bronx with the good, bad and the sometimes ugly aspects of New York City during a time of civil unrest and revolution. While I did notice that some of the dialogue included slang that is more relevant today than almost five decades ago, it gave this period piece a more contemporary vibe so it became less and less distracting as the episodes raged on.

Part one exhaustively helped us piece together the good guys and the bad guys, for the most part, leaving just enough ambiguity to make us second guess trusting certain main characters. The plot was running on all eight cylinders with many avenues that all lead back to our main character, Zeke Figuero, having to paddle through conflict upstream between his musical group, the love of his life and the prospect of Yale on the horizon with all of the familial pressure that comes along with becoming a young adult.

However, in part two, the plot segues were a bit shaky, leaving the hip hop narrative in the backseat to the impending drama of Mr. Cadillac, Fat Annie and Shaolin as well as Mylene and her overbearing father, Pastor Ramon, and did I also mention that Mylene’s mom is having an affair with Papa Fuerte, her husband’s brother, politician, community leader, record executive and, gasp- Mylene’s real father? But wait, there’s more! Actually, there’s a lot more. So much so that one could easily get lost in all of the different paths and plot lines.

Between focus on The Get Down Brothers, Mylene’s career with the Soul Madonnas and the many tribulations she faced with her father and record executives, the show essentially became a shell of itself in the beginning of part two. While I personally enjoyed all of the drama with my tub of popcorn, the show started to feel like a never ending telenovela versus a show that was based around the ins and outs of the music industry and rise of hip hop as we know it today.

While we were distracted by the dramatics happening within each character’s life, the many messages this show may have set out to spread were lost, especially as we approached the final few episodes where the storyline really put the pedal to the metal. Characters metaphorically and literally imploded with sudden self-revelations and life changing decisions very quickly in an almost avalanche-like path of destruction. Did it all happen too fast? For someone who isn’t as invested into the characters, I’d say the timing was just right. For those of us who would have liked to spend more time dissecting the many diabolical relationships involved and the various salacious exchanges between characters that ensued, we could have held on for a couple more episodes, at least.

So, this really begs the question, will there be a part three? They certainly left us with enough mental material at the end of part two to work with, and perhaps that’s why it ended so abruptly, like a truck flooring itself off the edge of a cliff. The writers are surely onto something with this show, and they could potentially take it further. If this series does return, I’d like to see a little bit more of a streamlined plot focus that isn’t so clouded by theatrics. Baz certainly has a signature style (a la Moulin Rouge) which makes for an exciting set that is alluring to the eye, but it would be good to match that intensity with a stronger and more refined story without all of the extra trimmings. With both Mylene and Zeke venturing off onto their own journeys in the final episode, it could cut down on a lot of the extra storylines and eliminate plot holes that were distracting.

Overall, this show exceeded my expectations and was worthy of a binge-watch, thus restoring my faith in shows about music. Although that musical plot wavered a bit, and involved some musical acts that went on for a couple minutes too long, as they all tend to do, the closing credits left us with the inspiring knowledge that soon after the final scene, the epic record “Rapper’s Delight” by Sugarhill Gang was released- an exciting conclusion that left us wanting more while also imagining where this story could go from here.

Written by: Lea Maric

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Joy Ride Is An Extremely Raunchy And Hilarious Comedy



Joy Ride is an extremely raunchy and hilarious comedy that takes the mantle of ensemble risky
comedies that at times, leave your mouth on the floor. Joy Ride focuses on two best friends
Audrey and Lolo (Ashley Sullivan and Sherry Cola) end up getting roped up into a trip to Asia,
they end up on gals pal cross-continent trek to find Audrey’s long lost birth mother so she
doesn’t lose a huge business deal.

The chemistry in this movie is superb. Every character has their moment to shine and there’s
rarely a scene where you don’t get a belly laugh. I was shocked at how crazy and bold this
movie got, continually pushing the line to get a laugh. The movie does a good job of getting to
the point and getting to the scenes that really make you chuckle. There are some editing choices where the story flies by some stuff, and it feels a little incomplete, but never at the expense of really enjoying being around for the journey.

I thought that this was a sleeper for this year and certainly a movie worth watching with your
friends some weekend. It’s great to throw on if you want a laugh and really just enjoy some
great actors riffing off each other. The focus on culture was a nice touch and really elevated the movie to another level. While I would say if you’re easily offended, this movie is not for you – if you’re looking for a no holds barred comedy, Joy Ride is a trip worth taking.

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Who Doesn’t Want To Wear The Ninja Suit Of Snake-Eyes Or Dress Like The Mandalorian?



Hasbro has had their pulse app out for a while now. It allows for access to items to buy, preorder, and a look into future projects and releases. It also allows for a very cool thing most nerds (a group of which I am a proud card-carrying member) have always wanted, the ability to make yourself into an action figure. I’ve contemplated making one for a time but, I finally got my chance to get my hands on one at Comic-Con this year. Now, of course, I had to wait in line as it was a pretty sought-after item. Who doesn’t want to have themselves wear the ninja suit of Snake-Eyes or dressed like a Mandalorian? I was approached by one of the booth staff as I was showing my nephew all the cool ways we could get him his own MIles Morales action figure with his face (as he’s a massive fan) and invited to take a seat and scan our faces into the Hasbro Pulse app with the help of their awesome team and make this dream a reality. My wife was with us, so of course she got in on the fun too. We scanned our faces in and it was very simple and quick. Then we all selected our figures to add our heads to. We all chose Power Rangers(Me as the Black Ranger, my wife chose the pink ranger and the nephew got the red ranger). Then we were told that we needed to wait about 4-6 weeks and we’d have our custom action figure team in our hands. This was a major part of our Comic-Con adventure and definitely, a memory my wife and nephew won’t forget (as it was both of their first Con ever). Thank you to Hasbro for being so generous(also getting me brownie points that home) and I highly suggest checking out Hasbro Pulse and all the cool stuff it has to offer.

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The Last Voyage of the Demeter: Double-knock on wood!  



Adapted and written largely from the Captain’s Log chapter of Bram Stoker’s magnum opus Dracula, The Last Voyage of the Demeter tells the story of Dracula’s journey by ship from Carpathia to London, and what happened to her crew in the interim.

So here we are in Bulgaria, middle of 1897, and Captain Eliot (Liam Cunningham) of the Russian schooner Demeter is here to take on some strange cargo from some unknown client and transport it to Carfax Abbey in London. In need of some extra hands, the Captain sends out his capable Second Wojchek (David Dastmalchian) to scout for some, and initially the roving black doctor and aspiring philosopher Clemens (Corey Hawkins) is passed over in favor of more work-roughened men. The adorable cabin boy of the Demeter, Toby (Woody Norman), narrowly misses being crushed by the mysterious dragon-marked crates being loaded onto the ship, saved by Clemens himself and switched out with the superstitious sailors running from the Demeter like they had been poisoned by the sign of Dracul. And now, armed with some nine or so crewmen, Doc Clemens, and Captain Eliot himself, the twenty-four strange what looks like coffins adorned with dragon signs brought mostly safely aboard, the Demeter can make for open water and the Hell that awaits them there.

The duty of showing Clemens around the ship falls to a cheerful Toby, who proudly shows him the living areas, the Captain’s quarters, the very-large cargo hold, the galley and kitchen where the overly-devout Joseph (Jon Jon Briones) cooks the crews meals, the various above decks, even the sails, and the rigging are all at least touched on, and the livestock pens that Toby himself is in charge of, including the handsome good-boy doggy Huckleberry, or just Huck. We the audience get a very clear feeling of what it’s like to actually be aboard the Demeter, just how large she really is, and what living on a ship for months at sea is really like, the reality and practicality and the dangers of it.

Everyone more or less settles in for a hopefully uneventful voyage, taking mess around the common table and exchanging ideas or aspirations for when they arrive in London early thanks to the fair winds, and receive a handsome bonus for their troubles. But that involves being alive and making it to London to spend said bonus and pay, and the coffin crates spilling dark soil from the motherland and disgorging all sorts of other nasty secrets, have some serious plans to the contrary.

First, it’s the livestock, innocent and shrieking in their locked pens as a monster takes great furious bites out of their necks, and of course, the creature just straight up ruins poor doggy Huck. Then there’s the fully grown girl that gets dislodged from an open coffin-crate, covered in bite scars and as pale as death, she eventually starts interacting and talking after several blood transfusions from Doc Clemens, Toby learns her name is Anna (Aisling Franciosi). And then, as the weather turns foul and the winds begin to be a serious problem, the attacks turn toward the remaining humans onboard the Demeter.

Most people these days are familiar with Dracula, that gorgeous cunning vampire Elder who can supposedly transform into a bat or a wolf, seducing women to voluntarily offer up their veins like an unholy sacrament, a being at once beautiful and powerful, but also horrific and murderous if given half a heartbeat to smell your blood. This is not Dracula.

Instead, the creature that hunts the humans occupying the Demeter is an absolute monster, not a single human feature left to it, barely even recognizable as humanoid-shaped, instead boasting not just full-length bat wings but an entire exo-skin of bat membranes that can be used for feeding, a mouth full of needle-like teeth akin to a predator of the deepest darkest parts of the ocean, those yellowed Nosferatu eyes that will not tolerate light in any way, and of course giant pointy bat-ears. This is a thing, a grotesque straight from the depths of Hell, and no amount of glamor magic can make this Dracula (Javier Botet) seem like anything other than what he, is – a parasitic demon who only wants your blood. There is no reasoning with it, no trapping it, not even really any talking to it (kinda hard to talk when your throat has been ripped out), and, like the much more frightening Dracula stories of old, no amount of pure faith behind a symbol does anything other than give false hope.

Coming face to face with an actual abomination does different things to different people. The formerly delightfully foul-mouthed Abrams (Chris Walley) dissolves into a blubbering mess; poor Larsen (Martin Furulund) didn’t even get to see his own death coming; and it turns out Olgaren (Stefan Kapicic) wants to live so badly, he’ll suffer becoming a blank-eyed Renfield if that’s what it takes. All of Cook Joseph’s purported pure faith didn’t stop him from trying to take the coward’s way out and didn’t save him anyway when the sound of unnatural bat wings descended on him. I find that kind of irony delicious. Dear Anna, resigned to her fate to be eternal food for the horror that terrorized her village, nevertheless wants to try and save whoever is left of the Demeter with her own sacrifice, and there aren’t many. Wojchek of course wants to kill Dracula, but for all his logic and solid practical nature, has no experience whatsoever with this sort of thing, and sure doesn’t want to sacrifice the Demeter, the beloved ship he called home that was promised to him by Captain Eliot himself, in order to destroy that demon. Even poor sweet Toby isn’t safe from the creature’s clutches, and what happens to the cabin boy of the Demeter is what finally sends Captain Eliot over the blooming edge. And who could blame him? For this sort of thing to happen during the last voyage of such a proud, solid ship as the Demeter, is some serious bullsh*t.

To leave such a film open for a potential sequel, especially when called the last voyage of something, was a pretty hefty ask, and somehow the filmmakers managed it. I personally think a different version of Van Helsing, the infamous vampire hunter, teaming up with a certain black doctor who nurses a serious grudge against Dracula, could be a kickass sequel. Until then, experience the doomed final journey of the Demeter and her poor crew in all it’s bloodstained glory, in theaters now!

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